For the second time in their history, the Berliner Philharmoniker brought a complete cycle of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen to a close during summer 2009. After a first production with Herbert von Karajan in the late 1960s, the musicians tackled Wagner’s mammoth work again under Sir Simon Rattle beginning in 2006. Stéphane Braunschweig directed this collaboration between the Salzburg Easter Festival and the Aix-en-Provence Festival.
When the new Ring came to an end with Götterdämmerung in Aix-en-Provence, the international press applauded enthusiastically – particularly for the performance of the orchestra. Le Figaro wrote: “The interpretation of Simon Rattle and his musicians was little short of a miracle. One was overwhelmed by a feast of sound that saturated every pore. The orchestra remained … flexible at all times and conveyed both great tenderness and seismic eruptions. Rattle achieved a flowing interpretation of the drama that captured every nuance of the text with the transparency of chamber music.”
Along with the conductor and orchestra, the superb international ensemble of soloists also thrilled listeners. The Canadian Ben Heppner, who had already sung Tristan with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Claudio Abbado, took the role of Siegfried for the first time in this production and again impressed with his vocal beauty and intelligent interpretation. The Swedish soprano Katarina Dalayman made her Philharmoniker debut as Brünnhilde, while Anne Sofie von Otter, who gave a moving performance as Waltraute, has worked closely with the orchestra for many years. Finally, Mikhail Petrenko presented an intense portrait of the villain Hagen, underscoring his standing as one of the great Russian Wagner singers of his generation.